Hawkes not guilty of gross in­de­cency, as­sault

Sig­nif­i­cant in­con­sis­ten­cies in wit­nesses tes­ti­mony

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - ALY THOM­SON

KENTVILLE, N.S. — Promi­nent Toronto pas­tor Brent Hawkes has been found not guilty of gross in­de­cency and in­de­cent as­sault in a Nova Sco­tia case that in­volved al­le­ga­tions stem­ming from events in the 1970s.

Pro­vin­cial court Judge Alan Tufts handed down the ver­dict Tues­day in Kentville, N.S., say­ing he found sig­nif­i­cant in­con­sis­ten­cies in the tes­ti­mony of the wit­nesses.

Hawkes, a high-pro­file rights ac­tivist who of­fi­ci­ated at for­mer NDP leader Jack Lay­ton’s state fu­neral, was at the time a teacher in his mid-20s in Nova Sco­tia’s An­napo­lis Val­ley.

A man told the court he was 16 years old when Hawkes led him down a hall­way naked dur­ing a drunken get-together at Hawkes’ trailer, and forced oral sex on him in a bed­room.

Two other men tes­ti­fied they at­tended the get-together as teenagers, and one said he wit­nessed Hawkes per­form­ing oral sex on the com­plainant.

On Tues­day, the judge said it’s not clear what hap­pened in the bed­room that night.

“It’s easy to spec­u­late, but that’s not some­thing that’s per­mit­ted here,” Tufts said.

The judge said the com­plainant’s tes­ti­mony was vivid and com­pelling, but “there are sig­nif­i­cant in­con­sis­ten­cies in the tes­ti­monies of the var­i­ous wit­nesses, par­tic­u­larly the tes­ti­mony of the com­plainant.”

The com­plainant held his head down as the de­ci­sion was read.

Sup­port­ers of Hawkes clapped and smiled when he was de­clared not guilty.

Hawkes had cat­e­gor­i­cally de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

Out­side the court­room, Hawkes thanked his sup­port­ers, fam­ily and the judge for his de­ci­sion.

“I’m so glad this is over so that I re­turn home and serve and my church and my com­mu­nity as best I can,” he said, read­ing from a small piece of pa­per.

De­fence lawyer Clay­ton Ruby said in his clos­ing ar­gu­ment in Novem­ber that the en­tire case will be re­mem­bered as weird, amid “an abun­dance of ev­i­dence” that the tes­ti­mony of the wit­nesses was un­re­li­able.

Ruby said the Crown had “many prob­lems” prov­ing its case be­yond a rea­son­able doubt, not­ing the al­leged of­fences hap­pened more than 40 years ago and that some wit­nesses tes­ti­fied they were drunk at the time.

The Toronto-based lawyer said the com­plainant ini­tially told po­lice he was co­erced into go­ing to the trailer, but on the wit­ness stand he ad­mit­ted he had no mem­ory of that hap­pen­ing.

Crown lawyer Bob Mor­ri­son called that level of de­tail “ex­trin­sic,” say­ing the com­plainant re­called the im­por­tant mem­o­ries clearly.

The com­plainant did not speak as he left the court­house.

Hawkes is a high-pro­file rights ac­tivist who has been se­nior pas­tor at the Metropoli­tan Com­mu­nity Church of Toronto for 38 years. He is known as a vo­cal pro­po­nent of same-sex mar­riage, and in 2007 was ap­pointed to the Or­der of Canada.

AN­DREW VAUGHAN, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Brent Hawkes heads from pro­vin­cial court in Kentville, N.S. on Tues­day.

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